It’s amazing what miracles can arise out of friendship and connection.
I have a dear friend, whom I fondly call “Thelma”; “Thelma”, of course, calls me “Louise.” Our friendship began in seminary and has deepened since then, especially since she moved to Baltimore a few blessed years ago.
Thelma is the kind of friend who knows what I’m thinking without me having to say a word. A soul friend. An anam cara. You know, I think, the kind of friend I mean; and I dearly hope you have such a friend in your life, too.
Thelma and I were talking a few weeks ago, about how life-giving it would be to routinely arise out of bed early enough in the morning to exercise and get our bodies moving, before the rest of the day unfolded. You see, she and I have tried, on our own, for over two decades to establish such a morning routine as a true habit, with fits and starts. Was it time, we wondered aloud to one another, to throw in the towel? To simply accept “our natures”? And that some people are “morning people”, and others, like us, are just not?
And then we had one of those “aha” moments. You see, Thelma and I live 7 (yes, 7) minutes away from one another, with Cylburn Arboretum and its lovely walking paths in between. Could Providence have made it any easier for the two of us, together, to finally succeed at something that has eluded each of us, alone?
Thelma and I talked about what was realistic and achievable, and what was not, knowing one another and ourselves the way we do. Get up at 5 regularly? 5:30? Heck no! What about 6? Okay, possible. And how to overcome a particular weakness that one of us has for endless tapping of the snooze button on our i-Phones?
“How about you text me at 6?” I asked, “And then again at 6:10? And I’ll text you back, just to confirm I’m up and conscious?”
We made a covenant (like true Episcopalians) to walk the paths at Cylburn together 3-4 mornings a week. Having heard or read somewhere that 40 is the magic number to make an action a habit, and given that 40 is one of those sacred numbers in scripture (for desert wanderings, and such), that’s what we’re aiming for. One day at a time. Or to borrow from 12-step spirituality, just for today. Yesterday morning was Day 7 of 40, of Thelma’s and my “experiment” in exploring the power of friendship and connection, in achieving what was heretofore “impossible”.
Yesterday evening was Day 10 of 10, of another “experiment” in friendship and connection. About 140 Baltimoreans gathered in our sanctuary last night for the final evening of Conversation THREAD (https://www.thread.org/) exploring the idea that together as Baltimoreans, reaching across lines of race and gender and socioeconomic class, we can achieve together what heretofore has eluded us, alone, in achieving a truly just society in our beloved city.
Will Thelma and I succeed, I wonder, in our experiment? And what about we, as Baltimoreans, in our city?
Together, and with God’s help … I think, we can.
Happy late summer! I hope you are finding time in August to read an extra book, take a walk before it gets too hot in the morning, and enjoy a rambling conversation or two once the sun has set, with old friends or family members or both. I have been doing all of that, and thinking about Redeemer, and counting my blessings. I am so thankful to know you: to be partners together in making Baltimore more whole, more loving, and more just; to be builders of a community of faith that welcomes all; to be creators of worship that gives us not only solace but strength; to be a traveler with you on the Way.
In June the program staff and vestry gathered to reflect on the past year and envision the next three. There is much to celebrate: attendance is up and giving is robust, new adult education offerings mid-week and after church on Sundays have been received with enthusiasm, new and renewed endeavors that connect Redeemer parishioners to partners in the city are thriving. A variety of retreats fed and challenged us: Epiphany, Contemplative Prayer, and an unforgettable evening with confirmands and their parents gathered around a huge table. We gave thanks for the gift of Henry Lowe and welcomed new Director of Music Ministry Bert Landman this month.
At the staff/vestry retreat we talked about outward engagement that seeks to heal our city and inward engagement that feeds our hearts and minds, and agreed that most of us need some of both.
The past year has seen us introduce a new team of volunteers to our old friends at Paul’s Place; relationships have grown at Govans Elementary and GEDCO/CARES; a number of parishioners have been energized by the community meetings and voter registration efforts of BUILD; a partnership with St. James, Lafayette Square has included anti-racism training, a book study, potluck dinner… and most recently working together to support The Ark, a pre-school for homeless children that will be moving to St. James this Fall, and now dreaming together about how we might foster hope and healing in West Baltimore near Lafayette Square. This month we welcome several hundred THREAD “family members” (mentors) to a ten-part conversation series in the parish hall. And stay tuned to hear about exciting speakers and discussion series we are planning for the fall.
More exciting news: Because energy and participation continue to grow in Outward Engagement, Cristina will shift her responsibilities to coordinate those efforts. She will act as a bridge builder, helping to more deeply connect Redeemer with community partners, and vice versa. She will train and support parishioners, foster existing relationships with organizations in the city, identify and nurture new ones, and debrief with participants at regular intervals. Working with Cristina, I will continue to build relationships with partners at work in Baltimore and together we will discerns areas of mutual benefit.
Cristina’s growth invites new energy and personnel in children’s and youth ministry, and in response we have created two half-time positions.
Kathy LaPlant will be our new director of children’s ministries, overseeing our nursery and Sunday school program. Kathy moved to Baltimore from Dallas with her husband Steve in 2014 and they joined Redeemer soon afterward. Kathy managed the office of a pre-school for 13 years and then worked as a high school math teacher and tutor. At Redeemer she has worked for two years with the Pre-K class, as a tutor at Govans School, and in the CARES food pantry. Paul Smith will serve as our director of youth ministries. Paul has worked with and for adolescents throughout his professional life, as a teacher, coach, advocate, and consultant. He is passionate about what motivates young people to stay in school and in they drop out, how to get them back in school and thrive. Paul and his wife Erin have led our J2A program, and Paul was a chaperone on their recent pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic.
Welcome Kathy and Paul! We are so fortunate to have such incredible leaders deepen our commitment to children and youth.
And what about Inward Engagement?! In the spring I asked Deborah Callard to help us organize adult education offerings for Redeemer. Deborah immediately recruited Sarah Hoover to help her, and that dynamic duo asked Karen McGee and Millicent Bain to complete the “team”. Working with the staff to coordinate dates and brainstorm ideas, they are lining up an exciting roster of speakers. Already committed for the fall are: Joe Jones, executive director of the Center for Urban Families; Judge Andre Davis, 4th Circuit; Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize winning author.
Mark your calendars for our “Homecoming” picnic: Sunday, September 11 after the 10:00 service.
See you soon!